Govt paying farmers not to grow things...details?

I remember learning, years back, that the US government pays a number of American farmers not to grow anything—something like if they were all growing at capacity, the bottom would fall out of produce markets and seriously screw up the economy, so it’s cheaper and safer just to do it this way. I don’t know, economics and agriculture were never my strong suits, though it seems plausible enough.

My question is…what is this program/policy called? Where can I find out more information about it—like how many people we pay off, and whatnot. And could we realistically suspend the program and signifigantly increase our farm output within a reasonable amount of time, if we needed to?

And heck, that’s assuming that such a program still exists…I don’t even know that much, for sure. Can anyone help me out?

To get ya started: Agricultural Subsidies

Where I grew up (north Texas), it was called land bank or soil bank. You’ve got the basic idea down - the idea was to limit production in order to keep the prices high enough to prevent farms from becoming even more unprofitable. My family’s farm never participated in the soil bank program, but IIRC, the payments were fairly modest. My father said it was just a way for lazy people to get paid for not growing what they weren’t planning to grow, anyway. I don’t know if the program still exists in one form or another or not.

In addition to ag subsidies, there’s also CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program). Basically, ag land owners are paid (a small amount) of money to set-aside portions of their land and leave it uncultivated in part of of several different conservation programs. The payments really aren’t all that great and you’d probably make more money cultivating it, but the DNR likes it, the wildlife likes it, and it’s good for the environment. Everybody say yay for healthy watersheds!

In Europe, this is called ‘set aside’ where land is not used for agriculture, the effect on surpluses on markets is not the only consideration though.

The EU has a minmum guarunteed price it will pay, but this is set at such a level that the weekend farmers find it economic to produce, when normally they would simply go out of business.This encourages overproduction and the surplus is notoriously stred in huge warehouses, and this costs pletny of money.

The idea of ‘set aside’ was to pay for not growing things so that the stored produce costs go down, and it has also been dressed up as a green politics issue, because the so called set aside land is allegedly less intensively used and it gives the local wildlfe more of a chance.

What actually happens is that less land is used much more intensively, but also, land that is simply not suitable for certain crops, is claimed as set aside for the most valuable subsidies.

In one now infamous case the UK richest man recieved subsidies for not producing anything, which was on land he didn’t use anyway.

Its also true that a number of other British land wealthy aristocrats also make huge use of these subsidies.

I don’t have any data on this, but my friend’s husband inherited part of his father’s farm, and she told me their best years were the years the gov’t. paid them not to grow. It’s not just spare change they throw at you. It was a very substantial amount of money. Just an FYI.